The Best Foods for the Gut

More than ever do we need to eat foods that are beneficial to the gut. Removing the foods that do not sustain gut health (such as refined flour, sugar, and industrial seed oils) is the first step. But we also want to consume on a daily basis (preferably) foods that are beneficial to the gut. Such foods include bone broth, fermentable fibers, and fermented foods. As explained in The Wild Diet, by Abel James, in your gut resides a great number of bacteria that have an extremely important role in the following:

  • Predigesting your food
  • Providing immune protection
  • Releasing neurotransmitters that affect your behavior and your mood 

Feeding the good bacteria in your gut by selecting the right foods that work for you is very important. 

Bone Broth

As stated in a previous post, bone broth has been used for thousands of years as a healing beverage by traditional cultures. A South American saying declares that “bone broth raises the dead.” All you have to do when making bone broth is add the bones (joint bones with the cartilage and marrow bones) of a well-sourced cow, chicken, pig, lamb, fish, etc. to a pot of water. Add a tablespoon or so of vinegar “to help release the minerals from the bones” and let simmer for several hours up to 24 or even 48 hours. You can add some vegetables too. I usually add some onion, garlic, carrots, various herbs, salt, and pepper. And that’s it! Your broth, full of nutrients, is ready to enjoy day after day.

Fermentable Fibers

Two sources of fermentable fiber are soluble fibers and resistant starch. 

  • Soluble fiber (mentioned in my previous post regarding avocados) can be found in fruits, vegetables, starches, nuts, and seeds. Soluble fiber is a food source that the good bacteria in your gut ferment and make short-chain fatty acids with. Vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, winter and summer squash, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, plantains, taro root, and yuca have more soluble fiber than other vegetables, so they are more soothing to the gut. 
  • Resistant starch, as explained at draxe.com, “is a type of starch that isn’t completely broken down and absorbed in the stomach or small intestine. Instead, it passes through to the colon and is converted into short-chain fatty acids, which act as prebiotics to help feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Because it’s processed and metabolized in a similar way as dietary fiber, it also boasts a similar set of health benefits.” You can obtain resistant starch with cooked and then cooled potatoes, green bananas or green plantains, for instance. You can also buy raw, unmodified, gluten-free potato starch and blend it in a smoothie or a dish, for example.

Fermented Foods

As mentioned in my post, What We Can Learn from World Cuisines, if you ferment certain foods, you increase the nutritional quality of these foods. With fermented foods, you’ll get a variety of good bacteria for the gut. As stated in Your Personal Paleo Code, you can consume:

  • Raw (unpasteurized) sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles (examples of fermented vegetables)
  • Yogurt and kefir (examples of fermented dairy)
  • Beet kvass, kombucha, and water kefir (examples of fermented beverages)

This month, I have started making the “DIY Antiaging Yogurt.” You can find the recipe in Boundless, by Ben Greenfield. This recipe is originally from cardiologist Dr. William Davis, whose blog is at wheatbellyblog.com This “L. reuteri yogurt” is fairly easy to make on a regular basis, and definitively worth checking out!

In Summary

Consuming foods that are beneficial to the gut sustains gut health and is a sure way to make us discover new recipes. Bone broth, fermentable fibers, and fermented foods are wonderful options to rediscover the pleasures of home cooking. And renewing our interest in time-tested traditional methods of cooking is probably the best thing we can do for optimal wellness!

Until next time!

References

Greenfield, Ben. Boundless : Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defy Aging. Las Vegas, Victory Belt Publishing Inc, 2020, pp. 364-365.

James, Abel. The Wild Diet:  Go Beyond Paleo to Burn Fat, Beat Cravings, and Drop 20 Pounds in 40 Days. New York, Penguin Random House, 19 Jan. 2016, pp. 53–55, 337–338.

Kresser, Chris. Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life. 1st ed., New York, NY, Little, Brown and Company, Dec. 2013, pp. 172-177.

Link, Rachael. “Resistant Starch Foods That Support Blood Sugar & Weight Maintenance.” Dr. Axe, 12 July 2018, draxe.com/nutrition/resistant-starch/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.

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Three Amazing Vegetables

If there are three vegetables that I eat very regularly, it is artichokes (or more specifically artichoke hearts), asparagus, and avocados. I enjoy putting artichoke hearts in my salads. Asparagus is so easy to roast in the oven (I like to use the bake-steam option of my Cuisinart steam & convection oven). And avocados are a daily must for me, either at lunch or dinner. Artichokes, asparagus, and avocados have in common the fact that they are high in nutrients and fiber, and low in sugar. 

Artichoke Hearts

It was found in a 2006 analysis that canned artichoke hearts are full of antioxidants. I like to buy the Native Forest brand for these as the cans are BPA-free. I also get artichoke hearts in glass jars. In that case, I stick to the ones packed in water, as the marinated ones can have questionable added ingredients. Artichoke hearts are a nice addition to salads, soups, frittatas, and skillets, for example.

Asparagus

In her book, Eating on the Wild Side, Jo Robinson states: “In a nutritional analysis of eighteen vegetables, asparagus was found to have more antioxidants than all but three of those tested – broccoli, green peppers, and burdock, a wild root vegetable. (Artichokes were not tested.)” I like to buy green asparagus either at the farmers’ market or at the supermarket. As mentioned in What to Buy Organic, asparagus does not have to be organic. The fresher the better though, in order to get all the nutrients. Purple asparagus has even more antioxidants than green asparagus. It is recommended to eat asparagus the day you buy it. If you choose to steam asparagus, that method of cooking will raise the asparagus antioxidant value by approximately 30 percent. Asparagus can be made into a wonderful side dish, or you can also make a soup with it.

Avocados

Regarding avocados, Jo Robinson states: “One serving gives you more antioxidants than a serving of broccoli raab, grapes, red bell peppers, or red cabbage. Avocados are also a good source of vitamin E, folate, potassium, and magnesium.” It is also important to highlight that avocados, which are subtropical fruits, contain soluble fiber (“ a type of fiber that has a gel-like consistency”) and oleic acid, the favorable monounsaturated fat that you find in olive oil. Both the soluble fiber and oleic acid allow for better absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants. Avocados do not have to be organic either. As mentioned in 12 “On-the-go” Healthy Snack Options, avocados are an easy snack option, just like artichoke hearts. Otherwise, you can add them to salads, make guacamole of course, or even fries!

In Summary

Artichokes (or artichoke hearts), asparagus, and avocados are high in nutrients and fiber, low in sugar, and very easy to find year-round. There are tons of recipes out there if you want to incorporate these amazing vegetables into your weekly meals. So experiment and see which one might be your favorite!

References

Gundry, Steven R. The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy : The 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Feel Great, and Live Lectin-Free. New York, Ny, Harper Wave, An Imprint Of Harpercollinspublishers, 2019, p. 31.


Robinson, Jo, and Andie Styner. Eating on the Wild Side the Missing Link to Optimum Health. New York Little, Brown, 2013, pp. 195-211.

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Learning from Our Ancestors

The way our ancestors ate over the centuries allowed them to flourish, thrive, and survive (at times) from one generation to the next. In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon states that “the culinary traditions of our ancestors, and the food choices and preparation techniques of healthy nonindustrialized peoples, should serve as the model for contemporary eating habits, even and especially during this modern technological age.” Indeed, we have drifted more and more away from these authentic cuisines, choosing convenience over the time-tested traditional methods of cooking. Going back to these ancient ways of preparing and consuming whole foods is a sure way to better our health and wellness. As Michael Pollan puts it, “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

“Four Pillars of World Cuisine”

In her books Food Rules and Deep Nutrition, Dr. Catherine Shanahan explains that “all authentic world cuisines share the same four categories of food sources and preparative techniques:”

  • Fresh, raw food
  • Sprouted and fermented foods
  • Meat cooked on the bone
  • Organ meats

So along with using traditional cooking methods, we want to pick in-season local ingredients whenever possible, of course. 

Fresh, Raw Food

Fresh food implies in-season picks. Examples of fresh foods are:

Sprouted and Fermented Foods

If you sprout or ferment certain foods you increase the nutritional quality of these foods. With fermented foods, you get a variety of good bacteria for the gut. Examples of fermented and sprouted foods are:

  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Sprouted almonds

Meat Cooked on the Bone

The most common ways to cook meat on the bone are either by slow-simmering meats, like in stews, or roasting them. By cooking meat for a long time that way, gently, you to preserve the nutrients and collagen in your meal. A personal favorite of mine is bone broth.

Sidenote: Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, found in muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system, and tendons. Consuming collagen can benefit your body in multiple ways.

Examples of meat on the bone are:

  • Roast turkey
  • Chicken soup
  • Barbequed spare ribs
  • Braised lamb shanks
  • Greens braised in chicken stock

Organ Meats

As mentioned in my previous post, organ meats are full of beneficial nutrients that can be easily absorbed by the body. Examples of organ meats are:

  • Pan fried lamb kidneys in butter
  • Beef tongue stew
  • Roasted bone marrow
  • Duck liver pate
  • Liverwurst (US wellness Meats offers this)

In Summary

Taking the time to prepare well-sourced whole foods by using traditional methods of cooking is an ideal way to nourish our body properly. Consuming fresh, raw food, sprouted and fermented foods, meats cooked on the bone, and organ meats should be part of our daily lives. Fueling our body with the right nutrient-dense foods is what can give us the strength and resilience needed to face whatever life may bring.

References

Dr. Axe. “What Is Collagen?” Dr. Axe, 5 Feb. 2019, draxe.com/nutrition/what-is-collagen/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

Fallon, Sally, et al. Nourishing Traditions : The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Brandywine, Md, Newtrends Pub, 2001, p. xi.

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food : An Eater’s Manifesto. Turtleback Books, 2009, p. 148.

Shanahan, Catherine. Food Rules : A Doctor’s Guide to Healthy Eating. Bedford, Nh, Big Box Books, 2010, p. 54-56.

Shanahan, Catherine, and Luke Shanahan. Deep Nutrition : Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. New York, Flatiron Books, 2017, pp. 328–333.

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Why Organ Meats Are Good to Eat

In a previous article on How to Source Beef, I briefly mentioned liver, one of my favorite superfoods, and said that organ meats should never be thrown away! Why so, you might ask? Organ meats in general do not seem that appealing. The short answer is that “organ meats are the most nutrient-dense foods by far,” states Chris Kresser in Your Personal Paleo Code. Not only are organ meats full of nutrients, but these nutrients can also be easily absorbed by the body. Dr. Anthony Gustin and Chris Irvin add, in Keto Answers, that “this makes organ meat like a natural meat version of a multivitamin.”

Organ Meats that You Can Buy

Organ meats can be from animals like cows, pigs, lambs, bisons, goats, chickens, and ducks, as long as they are well-sourced. Here’s a short list of organs you can eat:

  • Liver
  • Tongue
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Brain
  • Sweetbreads
  • Tripe

You can find these at some local farms (to find local farms, you can visit EatWild.com) or online sites like US Wellness Meats. There are recipes everywhere online on how to prepare these. For instance, this page on Mark’s Daily Apple.

You can also consume organ meats in capsule form. Every day, I take liver and bone marrow capsules sold by Ancestral Supplements. To take capsules is fairly convenient, and if you don’t like the taste of certain organ meats, or don’t have the time to prepare them, you still can get most of the nutrients they contain (vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, and essential amino acids).

In Summary

Including organ meats into our diet provides such an array of beneficial nutrients! Even just once a week can be sufficient, especially when it comes to a superfood like liver. (And consuming liver is okay, as most of the toxins are stored in the fat of the animal, and not the liver). Most ancestral diets included organ meats, alongside bones, cartilage and skin, fats, seafood, and wild plants.  For example, in the traditional Okinawan diet where food is considered medicine, a pig is eaten entirely, internal organs included. Going back to these ancient ways of feeding ourselves as much as possible makes perfect sense if we want to harness the health and wellness benefits of consuming truly nutrient-dense foods.

References

Gustin, Anthony, and Chris Irvin. Keto Answers : Simplifying Everything You Need to Know about the World’s Most Confusing Diet. Middletown, De, Four Pillar Health, 2019, pp. 150-151, 302-303.

Kresser, Chris. Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life. 1st ed., New York, NY, Little, Brown and Company, Dec. 2013, pp. 43-44, 70-72, 151-152, 155-156.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Okinawa Diet.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Jan. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okinawa_diet. Accessed 3 Apr. 2020.

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